Tinnitus is a condition in which a person experiences a continuous noise in the ears. The noise can sound like a ringing, but tinnitus refers to any noise heard by the ears that doesn't have an external cause. Although ringing is common, people report hearing buzzing, whirring, clicking and knocking sounds too.

The cause of tinnitus is not yet fully understood by modern science. But experts have identified a range of factors that they believe may contribute. Besides hearing loss, these include anxiety and depression, the buildup of earwax, prolonged exposure to loud noises and head and neck injuries.

In general, there are two types of tinnitus: subjective and objective. Subjective tinnitus is caused by noises generated within the patient’s mind and that cannot be heard by anyone else. Objective tinnitus is caused by real sounds that, in theory, a doctor could detect with the correct equipment.

Can hearing aids help with tinnitus?

The good news is that many hearing aid models come with features that help to reduce or eliminate symptoms for tinnitus sufferers. Often assistive hearing devices can be used as a part of a more comprehensive package of treatments to resolve what can be a debilitating condition if left unchecked.

For those with hearing loss, simply wearing a basic hearing aid may help reduce symptoms or reverse the condition entirely. Since the 1940s, hearing professionals have known that wearing hearing aids help tinnitus sufferers and by the 1980s, many hearing aid models came with the ability to produce a certain kind of white noise that could mask the patient’s endogenous creation of sounds.

In 2016, researchers in the Journal of Audiology published results suggesting that two-thirds of patients found hearing aids helpful. Researchers in other countries, such as Brazil, found similar results. Why this happened is open to interpretation, but the leading theory is that the brains of those who develop tinnitus as a result of hearing loss may be trying to compensate for a lack of real sound reaching the auditory cortex. The mere presence of noise – thanks to the wearing of a hearing aid – could be the reason the problem declines in those that use the devices.

Open hearing aids and tinnitus

A type of open-fit hearing aid may also have benefits for tinnitus sufferers. Open-fit hearing aids differ from conventional varieties by leaving the ear canal open. Leaving the ear canal open allows sound waves to pass through with less obstruction as possible, preventing the device from blocking out frequencies that the user can hear.

Tinnitus sufferers may benefit from open designs because they help to expose the ears better to sounds from the environment and reduce the claustrophobia experienced by many people with regular hearing aids, especially while chewing.

Sound support

Although noise therapy has been used for many years to cancel out annoying tinnitus sounds, some manufacturers have taken this a step further, providing wearers with customization options. White noise is standard, but some models of hearing aids allow you to choose different kinds of noise, including “pink noise,” ocean waves and “shaped noise.” Advanced devices allow sufferers to adjust the pitch and volume of anti-tinnitus audio signals to deal more directly with the features of their particular condition.

Rather than try to mask the problem, other devices provide soothing tones to deal with the psychological distress that often accompanies persistent tinnitus. Some hearing aid brands, for instance, can be programmed to give the wearers soothing sounds to change their mood, over and above simple masking.

Combination therapy

Although hearing aids play an independent role in the treatment and management of tinnitus, they are also useful when used in combination with other therapies. Many practitioners combine hearing aids with counseling and sound therapy to help patients better regulate their auditory brain systems. Sometimes, you may be referred to a specialist tinnitus center that provides bespoke therapies not available more widely.

Bilateral hearing aids

According to the American Tinnitus Association, people who wear two hearing aids usually experience improvements in their condition that are greater than those who wear just one. Choosing to wear an additional hearing aid, therefore, could help provide relief.

Modern Hearing is a hearing instrument specialist that helps people suffering from tinnitus find assistive hearing devices that both manage and improve their condition. If you are struggling with tinnitus and want advice from friendly professionals about which hearing aid to choose, give us a call at one of our three offices: